City Tech, Fall 2016

My analysis of Forster’s “The Machine Stops”.

Hello again classmates and anyone else following our posts! This week we were assigned to read “The Machine Stops” by E.M. Forster. The short story takes place in a dystopian future where mankind has fled under the earths surface to live in what they call “The Machine”. From the first few pages we see that humanity now spend their lives isolated in rooms interacting through holograms and messages showing a lack of human connection. Forster uses his plot to describe what it means to be a human and the importance of our daily lives. The sci-fi short story was originally published in 1909, while the story is over a century old i still found it very interesting and felt that the characters could very easily resemble exaggerated versions of us (for all I know it could happen!).

Through out the story Forster releases tidbits of details that describe background information but mainly focuses on the daily lives of the average citizens in order to inform us and keep the story going. Humans were taught and bred (literally bred) to fear or not be interested in ever returning to the earths surface. They also avoid interacting face to face with each other and don’t like to leave their rooms, since these rooms are very advanced and perfect humans have all of their needs given to them. Humans do interact with each other but through the machine in hopes of discovering, gaining or improving upon ideas. The society has completely devoted itself to the goal of gaining knowledge through the use of the machine which eliminates all work. What ends up happening is that many of the citizens complain of a lack of originality or ideas. Forster seems to be hinting that this society lacks the foundation of human thought since their is no natural stimulus. He creates a society that strives for perfection of the mind yet finds no natural ideas.

Humans have become very similar due to the changes made. People now lack physical strength and share interest in only being in the machine. While humans have become more advanced they have now bred a society refusing to change due to their arrogance in ” The Machine”. For a room with perfection people now lost the right to raise their children, decide where to live, and travel freely onto the surface.  Those who reject the ideals of “The Machine” are at risk of homelessness which stands for death. It seems for most people in this society freedom is a topic not of interest for they reject earthly desires. I found it very interesting because Forster reminded me of Nietzsche  short story “Thus spoke Zarathustra” , where he spoke off the “undermen”. The undermen are humans that have lost all desire to do anything and only hope to live easy lives that does not require much work. I see a connection with a society unwilling to change and experience all of the pleasure s and pain which makes life grand. Kuno, a main character of “The Machine Stops”,  seems to relate more to the “Ubermench” in Nietzsche story. He embraces the pain and suffering it takes to build the strength needed to discover the surface. Kuno eventually becomes something more as he risks his life to reenter the world.

The story ends with the society falling apart similar to a colony collapsing. We soon find that this group of humans have completely lost themselves to the machine expecting it to be a benevolent loving god who will do all of its bidding. With the whole population now expecting work to be done for them they quickly lead to their downfall. I think its clear that Forster hopes to show us that while humanity continues to expand in technology we must not lose ourselves and that strive which got us there.


  1. John roe

    I seem to recollect a short story I read when I was 12 or so in around 1959, entitled ” zoom”. Does anyone recall the author ? It told of a future method of traffic/population control by closing tunnels at random and disposing of the contents.

    • Anonymous

      John– the story you seek is called “The Tunnel Ahead” by Alice Glaser.

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